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Murdoch's World: The Last of the Old Media Empires
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on November 12, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
This is a very engrossing narrative that is informative, sobering, and chilling. The book reflects the author's own reporting over many years on the aggressive Murdoch news/entertainment empire as well as research done specifically for the book. It has an extensive bibliography and has meticulously annotated page notes documenting sources that occupy about a fourth of the entire book. There is also a detailed index that works with the Kindle.

This reader was aware of some of the excesses of the news media of Murdoch's empire, both in the US and the UK. However he did appreciate the depth of the depravity that is documented in detail by this book for activities in the UK that ultimately resulted in the closing of News of the World in England, after 168 years of publishing.
* Widespread hacking of telephone voicemail boxes (thousands) to gain tidbits for publishing. The targets ranged from royalty like Prince Charles, close relatives of former prime ministers, MPs, celebrities like Hugh Grant, to more ordinary people: people who had been killed in the 2005 bus and subway bombings, British soldiers killed in Afghanistan or Iraq, and during the police hunt the phone 13 year old girl who had been murdered.
* Scotland Yard kept and ignored extensive documentation of hacking activity.
* Bribing the police to gain confidential information on people's whereabouts or phone numbers to hack.
* Blackmailing a person into giving interviews.
* Following MP members of investigative committees by private investigators who were looking for dirt.
* Tit-for-tat or undue influence with politicians at the highest levels of the UK government.

Unsavory activities in the US had some surprises, but they are not on the scale of what happened in the UK.
* Setting up a journalist they did not like with a false "tip".
* Planting numerous phony "reviews" or comments by their own employees against people or organizations they did not like.
* Claims that Obama had studied at a Wahhabist madrassa and that was not bone in the US.
* Large political contributions in 2010 elections blur line between balanced news coverage and political advocacy.
* Pressuring Romney to choose Ryan as his running mate in 2012.
* Pressuring Christie to support Romney.

There is an interesting and generally favorable discussion of the Wall Street Journal's delicate situation and its actions of preserving its reputation for independence after being taken over by Murdoch.

There is no formal epilogue, but much of the last chapter serves that role:

One of the ironies is a description of some consequences of journalism run amok, but which do not come immediately to mind while reading the book as a whole: A bedrock of both British and US American culture is a free press. That freedom allowed Murdoch's empire grow and flourish. However, once the astounding excesses of that empire become known, pressures can arise to deal with the abuse with the heavy hand of law, compromising that bedrock for everyone. This realization reinforces the need to understand that a free press must also be responsible to considerations above monetary gains or advantages of influence.

This message is coupled with the admonition that we as a people share in the responsibility for the abuses:
"Murdoch similarly could not have accumulated his fortunes without our help. We are all, as consumers of media, involved and even responsible for the creation of Murdoch's World ---those of us who pick up his tabloids at the newsstand, enjoy the cable news wars, subscribe to his prestigious papers, watch a ballgame on TV, buy tickets to a movie, even those of us who are News Corp investors through pension funds or mutual funds. We make up the market that he sought to create and feed. He played us, as much as he played everyone else. And we have rewarded him handsomely for it."
This statement appearing near the end of the book reflects on Murdoch's attitude expressed early in the book. In a curious twist of word meanings, Murdoch said that what he did was in the public interest, because people are interested in reading it.

There is an interesting change of mood in the denouement. Up to this point, there has been an edge on the narrative, which was a necessary consequence of the nature of the tawdry events that were described. Here, however, there is a gentleness that visits the pages, exhibiting some empathy for many of the characters, including Rupert Murdoch himself. This whole story is not unlike a Greek tragedy in which the fatal flaws of the principals eventually take their toll.

This book is an extraordinarily fine piece of work.

On a technical note, the extensive page notes of the book are difficult to use in the Kindle format, because of the necessity to jump back and forth. In fact, one does not even know when to jump while reading the main text, because the page notes are organized around page numbers that are irrelevant in the Kindle format. This is a situation for which the hard copy is much better suited. However, in the Kindle format, having once read the book, one can just start reading the page notes and use the links to the appropriate text, and use the Back button to return to the page notes. Alternatively, one can do this on a chapter by chapter basis while reading.

There are so many different characters and branches of the Murdoch empire that it is a little difficult to keep track of them all during the reading. A table of the people, the business, and their connections would have been useful. A serious reader might be like to assemble such a table as the reading proceeds.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on November 10, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
A valuable accounting of Rupert Murdoch's career of subverting the foundations of democracy and civilisation. The book shows how powerless the institutions of democracies are to resist the corrupting influence of power-mad media tycoons like Murdoch. Where are the checks and balances against such power? What is to prevent another power-mad media tycoon from taking over where Murdoch left off and finishing off democracy once and for all. Though we all probably agree that democracy cannot survive without an informed and educated populace, what if it is not in the interests of the media owners to have an informed populace? What if it is in their interests instead to systematically misinform the populace? Who is going to stop them? Who can silence Murdoch's army of shouting bullies like OReilly and Hannity? The book makes one think about the vulnerability of democracy to media demagoguery and its uncertain future.
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22 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on October 27, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This is a very insightful book as to what news stations do to promote their own agenda. They will stop at nothing to get their version of the news out to the people...I highly recommend this book!!!!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on November 12, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
No matter ones politics this is a great book that looks into how the news is delivered and the many back stories that the public never sees. I especially liked the parts that dealt with the PR machines of the various corporations. The author fills the book with lots of anecdotes so it reads very quickly. I don't know how I feel about Murchoch in the end... part genius part antagonist part involved citizen. Fascinating read on what makes news.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on November 8, 2013
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
folkenflick has a very engaging style, as he presents disturbing old and new details in a relaxing way - just look at the chapter titles: RUPERT IN OZ, FAIR AND BALANCED, THE FLYING MUSLIMS [an amazing chapter on the transitioning of juan williams from NPR correspondent to Foxnews "correspondent"], AILES SEEKS A LEGACY.

the heart of this book is the story of the crash landing of many murdoch european media ventures leading to the rapid descent of (USA) newscorp. > against the backdrop of the Foxnews journalistic disgrace called coverage of the 2012 election. all the overstuffed parrot puppets hit the deck hard...dick morris watched from the fair and balanced cafeteria or wherever, clutching his already packed briefcase, while rove ran about the studio, looking for the fratboys who said, sorry, it's all over. bright spot, megyn kelly handled the whole two reeler with dignity and humour. the same kind of mania which had enveloped murdoch's british "family" a wile earlier, as they saw their calculated misdeeds pass before their eyes, on the way to unemployment, the slammer, or both.

there's an hilarious passage about mr. ailes own hysteria, trying to locate a fair and balanced (?) biographer. this dude gets a raise because his station did not deliver Romney-Ryan. go figure.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 4, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
In the interest of full disclosure, I know David from high school, so I was anticipating this book for awhile. Regardless, Murdoch's always been a fascinating character, and especially after the phone hacking scandal I was hoping to see this kind of comprehensive treatment of him. I was really impressed with the depth of research and level of insider information that David brought to this effort, and he's got a great breezy writing style. It didn't take me long at all to finish, and I was always eager to pick up where I left off. The focus of the narrative is on Murdoch's effort to continue his dynasty through his children, and how the escalating scandals made that increasingly difficult. I can recommend this book without reservation to anyone who has even a passing interest in the subject.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Very interesting book on the propaganda mills that Murdoch has created.
On issues of war, climate change, labor, government, race & gender, and much else,
Fox "News" is a endlessly manipulative and deceitful The Fox Effect: How Roger Ailes Turned a Network into a Propaganda Machine.
I recently heard Folkenflik discussing his book on C-SPAN2's BookTV, and was intrigued (but not surprised) to learn how Fox PR people use aliases and write on various message boards (no doubt on Amazon as well) to push their network, their books, and its political narratives.
Thankfully, more honest news sources like "Democracy Now!" are growing
through word of mouth, social media links, community radio, and viewer-sponsored tv channels like PBS, and satellite channels such as Link and Free Speech TV.
Murdoch's empire has concentrated wealth at its disposal, but independent media has the advantages of journalistic integrity and popular support.
On the issue of media empires, I'd recommend the work of Robert McChesney
The Problem of the Media: U.S. Communication Politics in the Twenty-First Century and Noam Chomsky Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media.
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on November 5, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Very informative and well researched. Can be tough to follow at times (for me at least) only because Folkenflik has sooooo much information to put out there. Would absolutely recommend reading. I'm happy to see this side of the news for once.
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Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
The book is a good insight to Murdoch's life and how he structured his "empire." For me, it became a little boring trying to follow all the people being mentioned. The book mainly focuses in the U.K.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
One man manipulates the news that the public believes is "fair and balanced", ladling storylines down the English-speaking world's throats--with large doses of SEX and CELEBRITIES--and the public bought it. Time and time again. From The Times of London to the WSJ, Murdoch has wrought excellent newspapers into reflections of the world in his image. Limited.

So read this and weep. The question of any media student, is how Murdoch has avoided the Foreign Corrupt Practices act?
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